Patrick Delaforce & Ken Baldry

'Family History Research' - Chapter 37
Richard, Coeur de Lion’s friend - William

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Chapter 37

"See, see King Richard doth himself appear as doth the flushing discontented sun..."

Richard, Coeur de Lion’s friend - William

WILLIAM de FORCE, FORS, FORTZ was born about 1150 in either the town of FORS in Poitou or in OLERON. Prince Richard, Henry and Eleanors eldest son was born in 1157. Richard and William, and William’s family became close friends of the handsome dashing young Prince. Imbert or Humbert was probably Williams brother - the "notable d'Oleron, l'un des familicis de Richard Couer de Lion”. In the chronological table in Appendix I, there are several mentions of William in 1165, 1166, 1168 and 1174. (If William was born later than 1150, the three earlier mentions would refer to his father of the same name.) Certainly it was William in 1174 paying fealty to Richard outside Bordeaux.

In 1181 Richard, "Prince of England and Aquitaine" was with Guillaume de FORS at CHIZÉ en POITOU at Christmas - probably hunting. “King Richard fut moins large et c'est ainsi qu'il a s'arrogen le droit de loger sans compensation ses veneurs (huntsmen) et ses chiens dans les mainson des PRIEURS de FORS" (Hist. Comtes de POITOU). William was also described as "un marine prouvé (experienced sailor) originaire de l'ile de OLERON et TALMOND - pays favoris de Roi Richard".

There is some doubt as to when WILLIAM became Earl of Albermarle. In 1185 WILLELMUS de La FORTE "redd Comp de V m(ilites) pro Dominico Regis arato et concelato. In thesauro (treasury) XI s. et debet ij m(ilitem)." The area was described as "de placitis foreste de CUMBERLAND." The next year he was shown as WILLELMO Comiti de Albermara de SVDSEXA (Sussex). Source - PIPE ROLLS. They also list Richard and Williams travels together almost in diary form. For instance on 27 Nov 1189 they were at Canterbury together, then in March, May, June and July 1190 at Mayet-Chaloché abbey, Rouen, Cognac, Tours, Montrichard, Donzy and Vezelay.

In 1189, as William Earl of Albermarle, he was the Count responsible to King Henry II for 'de honore de SCIPTONE (Yorkshire) XIJ milites' in the county of Eborascsira. He obviously had a military reputation. King Henry II died in 1189 at the age of 56 - heartbroken by the treachery of his son Richard of Aquitaine and King Philip Augustus of France, who had combined to defeat the tough old wolf at Le Mans in France. His French fiefs were always in a state of rebellion provoked usually by his unruly, unreliable sons. He was succeeded as King by Richard, his eldest son. Richard of England, Duke of Aquitaine, wrote to Willelmo de FORZ about founding an Abbey on the island of LA GULLONA near PALA on the LOIRE in 1190. On the 5th December 1189 Richard went to Dover and prepared to cross over to Normandy. Earl William of Mandeville, whom the King had named as one of the two chief Justiciars to govern the Kingdom in his absence, died at Gisors of fever. King Richard "gave" his widow, Countess Hadwisa, to his friend William of Force/Fors. Hadwisa refused to marry him. The King seized her estates in Yorkshire and had stock valued at £115.1.4d. sold! The countess gave in and married the man of the King's choice. The King 'gave Hadwisa and the county and title of Aumale to William de FORS'. (Quote from Richard of Devizes p.1010. Pipe Roll 6 Richard I p.163.) The description of Hadwisa is awe-inspiring. Richard of Devizes says she was 'a woman almost a man lacking nothing virile except the virile organs'.

Nevertheless Hadwisa, who married four times, in addition to having money and lands, was a direct descendant of William the Conqueror. In effect William was marrying into the Royal Family. Moreover he soon took not only the dead man's wife, but his job as well! One of HAWISE's problems might have been caused by marriage to cousins, since in all probability that is what two of her husbands were. Geoffrey and William.

On 3rd July 1190 Richard Coeur de Lion met his friend William at Oleron, the coastal port north of Bordeaux. Together they went on an overland survey and met the young French King, Philip Augustus, at VEZELAY, 150 miles SE of Paris. A plan was agreed for joint armies to be assembled for the Third Crusade.

William returned to Oleron and formed a squadron of 30 ships capable of sailing to the Holy Land. He was then promoted by King Richard to be one of the two Justiciars (in place of the wretched William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex). Then William became Admiral and Commander of the Fleet and arrived at Lisbon on 24th July 1190.

Richard and William during their stay at CHINON on the Loire agreed the 'ordinance' for 'the conduct of the English fleet:-


Any man who shall kill another shall be bound to the dead man and if at sea, be thrown overboard, if on land be buried with him.


If it shall be proved by lawful witnesses that any man has drawn his sword against another, his hand shall be cut off.


If any man shall strike another with his fist without drawing blood, he shall be immersed three times in the sea.


The penalty for the use of blasphemous language shall be a fine of one ounce of silver for each occasion.


Any man who is caught stealing shall have his head shorn tarred and feathered and shall be put on shore at the first land where the ship touches.

The fleet reached Marseilles on 22nd August, to King Richard's expressed admiration. They continued to Messina and arrived there on 14th September 1190, where Richard had to settle a family quarrel concerning his sister Joanna, the widow of William II, King of Sicily.

Willelmum de FORZ D'ULERUM signed the Charter of peace with the King of Sicily. "6 OCT 1190 William de FORS de OLERON, at Messina, surety for peace of SICILY with TANCRED's Kingdom." William took part in the campaigns at the Siege of Acre, having conquered Cyprus on the way to Byzantium. As master of Cyprus, Richard, with his huge armada, was in a better position to supply the Crusaders' besieging army. Both Kings became ill during the siege, but Acre eventually fell after two years, in 1191, followed by the recapture from Saladin of other major coastal towns. The fall of Acre was a triumph for the Crusaders and a cause of despair to the Moslems.

Richard Coeur de Lion, who had sold Cyprus to the Knights Templar for a huge sum of money, was unFortunately insolent to all his comrades in arms. The French King returned to France. Richard, without hindrance, slaughtered three thousand captives because Saladin was slow in sending their ransom and more important, the True Cross. Although the Crusaders had more successes, they failed to take Jerusalem. After storming Jaffa, Richard signed a peace treaty with Saladin, and on 9th October 1192 he and William de Force left the Holy Land and William returned to England but Richard was captured by Leopold V of Austria and imprisoned by Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI

The Chronicler Roger de Hoveden says 'Interim Rex Angline prefectus fuit in Gasconiam deinde perrexit in ANDEGAVIAN (ANJOU) ab CHINONEM (town of Chinon) et ibi constituit. Wilhelmum de Fors de Olerum ductores et constabularios totius navigii fui, quod in terram navigii sulie iterus erat.'

On 17th April 1194 at Richard Coeur de Lion's Coronation he walked under a silken canopy supported on the lances of four barons. William de Force was holding one of the four lances. He died later that year according to most historians, although in 1195 "INGELRAUN de Albermar et WIDO, pater suus" were both alive, and in 1203 INGELRAUMUS was vicecomes Albermarle.

The curious part of this story is that a French historian Père Anselme insists that Geoffrey de FORTS was also married to HAWISE but that he was a Crusader who died at the siege of ACRE in 1191. (Chronicles d'Alberic) He was reputed to be her second husband. 'Comte d'Aumale issu d'une famille de Normandie ou la seigneurie de FORTS est située.' (Pere Anselme vol.2 p.877) A son, ROBERT des FORTS, was born to this marriage of Geoffrey and Hawise. William de Force/Fortz was born to William and Hawise between 1191-5. She married again to Baldwin of Bethune in 1197, who assumed the title until the son William came of age in 1213.

The family crest was that of a Crusader's shield with a red cross 'Blason porté à la croix fleuronné ou treflée et deux besants en chef'. Each end of the cross has three small flowers.

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